City Council Uses Free Cash To Fix Overrun Account
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city drained its free cash account Tuesday to cover a shortfall in veterans' benefits.
The City Council approved transferring $163,833 from free cash to cover the overrun account and even more reserves are expected to be used next month to finish off the 2011 budget.
The transfer had to be completed before the end of the month before the state freezes that account.
The city saw a boost in the number of benefits the city has given to 48 different veterans. The state will reimburse the city 75 percent of the benefits but not until next fiscal year.
"A lot of it's outreach and a lot is the economy," Mayor Richard Alcombright said. "It's about $100,000 more than the year prior."
Alcombright pointed to the depressed economy to explain the sharp increase. Veterans' unemployment benefits are running out and they must now turn to the city, he said.
The deficit only covers the benefits for North Adams veterans, Alcombright said when asked about the shared agent with Williamstown and Adams. The city pays for the agent and the other towns pay the city proportionately, which enters the budget as revenue. Earlier this year, Williamstown also reported an increase in benefits given out.
"The only thing we see at city hall is North Adams cases," Alcombright said. "The benefits and salary gets split."
The move nearly drains the free cash account to finish off the fiscal year, which ends next week, he said.
Alcombright said he will return to the board next week to request further withdrawals from other reserve accounts to fix overruns in the snow and ice, Department of Public Works and public safety budget lines.
However, Alcombright also said that local receipts appear to have received a boost in the last 10 days, which could help offset using those reserve funds while the city plans for next year.
"Local receipts are better. They are not where I want them to be but they are better than I thought," Alcombright said. "I'm hopeful that some of the numbers may be negated."
Tuesday's meeting took only 30 minutes because councilors had very few updates on committees and organizations.
Councilor Al Marden reported that the Health and Safety Committee is continuing to work with the Police Department in phasing out the public safety commissioner position.